The Miami Marlins may surprise some people in the NL East this season if the first couple of the games are any indication. Of course, to be surprised, that would assume people are actually paying attention, and whether anyone in South Florida — or in the baseball world for that matter — is going to pay attention to the Marlins this season is seriously in question.
If attendance is any indication, the Marlins may end up playing most of the season in front of just friends and family. Miami has opened 2-0, both victories over the Colorado Rockies. The latest win, a 4-3 decision Tuesday night, saw Miami score a pair of runs in the sixth inning to break a 2-2 tie and hold on to win.
In both games, Miami has been a picture of perfection in terms of what most baseball fans want to see from their teams. In two games, Marlins starting pitchers, including standout Jose Fernandez on Monday, have gone six innings, striking out a total of 15 batters (Fernandez had nine). The bullpen has pitched a total of six innings so far this season and allowed just one lonely run. Miami has outscored Colorado 14-4 in the two games and has two more games left in the series to beat up on the Rockies. Miami has even somehow managed to get five RBIs out of third baseman Casey McGehee.
But no one is watching and it would appear no one cares. In their big beautiful new stadium that has a little bit of everything, the Marlins have played in front of crowds … OK, gatherings, an announced group of 37,116 (though, the actual crowd wasn’t nearly that much), and an announced congregation of 15,906 tonight. Sure, you would expect more people to turn out when Fernandez is pitching, as he is one of the best young hurlers in the National League. But coming off a 10-1 win on opening day, the announced crowd number drops more than 50 percent.
Everyone knows that sports in South Florida are a tough challenge. The NFL‘s Miami Dolphins haven’t won a Super Bowl in 40 years, the Miami Hurricanes have fallen on hard times in college football and the Florida Panthers are a complete afterthought in the NHL. If it wasn’t for the Miami Heat, which have won back-to-back NBA titles, the entire region would be a sports wasteland.
Yet, here’s this baseball team in this new ballpark that is at least giving the impression of being decent in 2014, and if the star pitcher isn’t on the mound, you wouldn’t even know it. The Marlins might be baseball’s best-kept secret this season, but it’s pretty easy to keep a secret when nobody’s paying attention.